Kwara State on Tuesday set a new record in gender inclusion for Nigeria as Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq assented to an executive bill mandating the state to have at least 35% women appointees in the state executive council and other classes of political appointments.
The law, cited as Political Offices (Gender Composition) Bill 2021, is arguably the first legislation of its kind in the country that places a ceiling below which the government cannot go in appointment of either gender for public offices.
Speaking in Ilorin at a state government-inspired conference themed ‘Cracking the glass ceiling: the story of Kwara women’, the Governor said it is only fair that women be given a fair space in the decision making process whose outcomes have far-reaching consequences for them and their families.
The event was attended by creme de la creme from Kwara and beyond such as: representative of the wife of the President Dr. Rukayat Gurin; Kwara First Lady, Ambassador Mrs. Olufolake AbdulRazaq; Women Affairs Minister, Dame Pauline Tallen; Ekiti First Lady, Mrs. Bisi Fayemi and several governors’ wives; Senators from the three senatorial districts of Kwara and House of Representatives members from the state; the Ilorin born business tycoon, Mrs. Bola Shagaya; former acting Governor of CBN Sarah Alade; National Missioner Ansar-u-deen Muslim Society of Nigeria, Dr. AbdulRahman Ahmad; Founder/CEO Sokoa Chair Centre and keynote speaker Mrs. Ibukun Awosika.
Kwara Speaker Yakubu Danladi-Salihu led members of the House to the event which was also attended by cabinet members.
Kwara State Traditional Council Chairman and the Emir of Ilorin Dr. Ibrahim Zulu-Gambari led a legion of first class emirs and Obas to the event that also attracted global audience such as the United Nations Women Representative to Nigeria/ECOWAS, Comfort Lamptey; ambassadors; and others.
The event also saw the conferment of outstanding awards of excellence on Kwara women who have achieved huge feats in their respective fields: former Chief Judge, Raliat Elelu-Habeeb; Mrs Sarah Jubril; financial guru and former Lagos Finance Commissioner Mrs Foluke Abdulrazaq; Mrs Sarah Alade; business woman Bola Shagaya; Senator Khairat Gwadabe; first female HOS in Kwara, Zarah Omar; former Deputy Vice Chancellor of University of Ilorin Prof Sidikat Ijaya; media veteran Hajia Eyitayo Mairo Mustapha; and the Onila/Agindigbi women who built schools; among many others.
The Governor said the recognition and the step to mainstream women in public service were the least the administration could do for the hard working women as a way of inspiring the girl child.
“Women are so critical to human civilisation. They are just as brilliant, innovative, and smart as men. They are the largest voting demographic in Nigeria. Yet, they are often absent or unfairly represented when policies and programmes that shape everything concerning them and their families are designed,” he asserted.
“This needs a rethink. In Kwara, we have recently taken unprecedented steps to involve more women in the decision making process. We appointed 56.25 female cabinet members and about 50% female permanent secretaries. Many key government positions are headed by women. We do not have regrets making such decisions.
“Nevertheless, the gains we have made in Kwara in mainstreaming gender parity in appointments could easily be reversed by anyone. We have therefore decided to give a legal cover for gender parity in Kwara State, no matter what party is in power. I have therefore assented to the Kwara State Political Offices (Gender Composition) Bill 2021.
“A unique feature of this legislation is that no gender class shall henceforth have below 35% representation in the State Executive Council. This opens a new chapter for inclusive political system in Kwara State and Nigeria as a whole. It is our bold contribution to the Nigerian political culture.
“We feel strongly that no segment of the society should be absent or underrepresented in the decision making process. This law could well encourage our major parties to officially mainstream gender parity in their activities.”
He recalled that many heroic efforts of women have contributed to the growth of the state, saying the conference was organised to single them out for special commendations.
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“This is a moment to specially appreciate all of you Kwara women for the great things that you stand for,” Abdulrazaq said.
“From farm to market place, community work, national service, and their sweats that go into building our homes, the Kwara woman is simply great.
“Early this year, I read the inspiring story of some women in Onila and Agindigbi communities who pulled resources together to build schools. No commitment to community growth can be greater. I visited these women in appreciation of this sacrifice. We have also reimbursed their expenses, and completed the schools.
“The Onila/Agindigbi phenomenon reflects the character of the Kwara woman.”
Nigeria’s First Lady who was represented by the Senior Special Assistant on Administration and Women Affairs Dr. Rukayat Gurin called on all states in Nigeria to emulate AbdulRazaq in promoting the welfare of women for overall development of Nigeria.
“You are a true partner to women and you are doing well for advancing the course of women. We are all testimonies to the historic story of Kwara women under you,” she said.
She commended Governor AbdulRazaq for giving opportunities to women to thrive.
Kwara’s First Lady, Olufolake AbdulRazaq, for her part, explained that the event is to inspire the average Kwara woman to leverage on the women-friendly initiatives of the state government to chart progressive course for themselves and be active participants in the processes of governance for the development of their immediate communities and the nation.
“While today’s event is essentially to bring to the fore the impacts women can make when given a fair competitive chance in all spheres of endeavor, this convergence also provides the opportunity to celebrate women especially Kwara women who have carved a niche for themselves in their respective callings while giving assurances through the gender inclusive disposition of the Administration of the Governor of Kwara State His Excellency Abdulrazaq that there is no limit to the dream and aspirations of every woman and girl, irrespective of their religion or socio cultural leanings.”
“This event also stands to commemorate the United Nations 16 days of activism against gender-based violence which started on the 25th of November,” she added.
Dame Paulen said the formation of AbdulRazaq’s women-dominated cabinet is remarkably unique, adding the event further underlined the Governor’s efforts at improving the lot of women in national development.
She lauded the Governor’s wife for supporting his husband to cause a meaningful change in the history of the state.
She added: “It is most gratifying to join this event organised to celebrate the socio-cultural, economic and political contributions of women in Kwara State. It is on record that Kwara started cracking the glass ceiling in 2019 with the landmark appointments, where he appointed 9 women out of 16 commissioners into the state Executive Council.”
In her keynote address, Founder/CEO Sokoa Chair Centre, Mrs Ibukun Awosika congratulated the Governor for being exceptional and a pacesetter in allowing the girl child to be major part of the political and economic aspect of the state.
“Kwara State is a good example of states that understand the value inherent in women. Kwara has shown that it has women who have gone through many fields and every corner of this state and Nigeria,” she said.
“Nothing is wrong with you being a girl or women. We need to appreciate and use every resource that we have to our advantage. We must educate every girl and empower women. I want to call on every young girl, as long as you have brain and you are educated, there is nothing you can’t do because of your gender.
“Women are compassionate and care more about community. We need women and men to work together collaboratively. Women are not seeking to replace men but to work together for the development of the society.”
Dr. Abdulrahman Ahmad said the glass ceiling is a temporary barrier created by man, adding that God makes no rigid distinctions in what success that people can attain, no matter their gender.
He said Governor AbdulRazaq has made history in the country in trying to give more voice to women and every member of the society.
Various speakers took turns to commend the administration for its historic gender inclusion policy.